This time last year I listed my bands of 2010 and figured I'd do the same again this year. 2011 was a good year for music, some great albums released, mind blowing gigs and opportunities to attend some amazing festivals. It was a tough choice but here it goes!
Father, Son, Holy Ghost was a surprise album for me. I wasn't expecting to like it but have found over the past few months it's an album that I've not taken off of my playlist. The album contains many references to lead singer Christopher Owens's bizarre childhood being brought up in the cult Children of God and it's genre switching mixture of surf-rock (Honey Bunny), metal (Die), and indie-rock make this second album from Girls an interesting listen.
Likened to Tom Petty, John Fahey and Bruce Springsteen Smoke Ring For My Halo is Kurt Vile's fourth full length album. With its wry lyrics and intricate guitar its the best indication yet of what is likely to come from this 30 year old.
No Color is the 4th album from The Dodo's and follows 2009's disappointing Time To Die. The addition of influence and vocals from Neko Case (The New Pornographers) appear to have made a big difference and tracks one through to seven are great, it's a shame that the final two tracks of the album slightly let it down.
Wit's End is Cass McComb's fifth album and first of two releases in 2011 (it was followed later in the year by Humour Risk). It's a stripped down, moody album at the kind of pace you've come to expect from the enigmatic figure. Certainly an album to listen to at the right time.
Wellington six piece, The Phoenix Foundation have been around for over a decade yet have struggled to make much of an indent outside of their home country. In 2007 their third Album, Happy Ending, received good reviews but quickly disappeared. 2011's Buffalo, will I hope, be a different story. It sounds like a much more complete and grown-up album with dreamy, hazy sounds akin to the Beach Boys or possibly some Belle & Sebastian. They toured Europe earlier this year, hopefully they'll be back again in 2012.
For me Russian Circles are one of those bands who'll always sound better live than on album, but that aside Empros is probably their strongest recorded album to date. Their dark, instrumental rock has a slightly different feel to previous albums, most notably on album closer - Praise be Man.
Everything about Explosions In The Sky is pretty epic. Their songs are epic, their videos are epic and their live performances are epic. Hailing from Austin, Texas the four piece set up of three electric guitars and one drum kit describe their music as "cathartic mini-symphonies". Perfect listening for almost any occasion.
A blend of R&B, folk, afro-beats and lo-fi combined with Merrill Garbus extraordinary voice makes for a great sound. The albums edgy theme deals with topics such as "power struggles that arise from inequity and lead to further cruelty and injustice" immediately obvious on tracks Powa, Gangsta, Killa, Riotriot and Doorstep.
I was lucky enough to see William Elliot Whitmore play a few weeks ago at one of his rare London gigs. I did a quick write up of what was a truly amazing gig. Despite being in his early 30s William already has seven albums to his name and his latest, Field Songs, is in my humble opinion among his best. Its a much stripped down affair switching between banjo and guitar to accompany his throaty vocals. The lyrics on the album, like many of William's others, talk of real life, working to make a living whilst still trying to stay true to who you are. Perfect listening for cold, dark nights with a bottle of your favourite drink.
Prior to this year I didn't know too much of St Vincent, I'd given 2009's Actor a brief listen but quickly discounted (probably a bad move) and it wasn't until one of my housemates and I were talking about our favourite albums of the year that I was pointed in the direction of Strange Mercy. Straight away it jumped into my top albums of this year. Throughout the album there are complex hooks and riffs which combined with Annie Clark's angelic yet melancholic vocals keeps you enthralled and on edge from start to finish. For me, stand out tracks of the album are: Cheerleader, Northern Lights, Cruel and Dilettante.
Narrowing down to ten was a challenge in itself, putting them into a one through ten was almost impossible. Anyway, if I was going to do a top twenty list here are the (unlisted) albums that probably would've made the cut.